Case Study: Pachakutik Movement, Ecuador

The Pachakutik (“Revolution” in Quechua) movement was founded in 1995 by Ecuador’s Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE). Adopting a plurinational, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist platform, Pachakutik enjoyed significant electoral success in the 1996 elections as an alternative to the main political parties. Although its support fell to low levels between 1998 and 2020, Pachakutik has recently increased its prominence by adopting a more inclusive, coalition-based approach. 


Pachakutik’s anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist Leftist platform resonated with a wide range of Ecuadorians, and in the 1996 legislative elections, Pachakutik stunned many by ranking third and garnering 10 percent of the total members in Congress. Nonetheless, Pachakutik's success was extremely brief. Following the initial electoral victory of the party, the CONAIE components of the party leadership began to alienate non-indigenous supporters inside the party. These non-indigenous friends included peasant unions, women, and Afro Ecuadorians. Non-indigenous groups condemned Pachakutik's legislators for acting in corrupt ways and abandoning the coalition, including by adopting an explicitly pro-indigenous platform . The erosion of the base led to a decline in party support, especially at the national level. The party struggled to obtain more than 5% of the national vote between 1998 and 2021, despite maintaining a relatively stable base of local and indigenous support. 


In 2021, Pachakutik sought to extend its message beyond its indigenous core and adjust its messaging strategy to address local problems of its diverse base. In 2020, the party embraced a more concrete message, centered on distributive politics and public services. Pachakutik advocated for national-level policies, such as free university education, environmental protection, and reducing unemployment. It also expanded its appeals at the local level, promising to increase access to public services, especially in rural areas, which  included roads, schools, public health, waste disposal, public transit, and expanded services for  agricultural workers. It also changed its messaging strategy: for instance, it utilized pro-indigenous arguments in indigenous-majority areas and pro-working class arguments in non-indigenous areas. Similarly, prior to the election, the party expanded its efforts to depict itself as a "rainbow party" that supported not just indigenous groups, but also non-indigenous women, peasants, and Afro-Ecuadorians. This inclusive campaign contributed to a significant improvement in electoral performance.


These efforts have allowed Pachakutik to broaden its electoral base. In 2021, the party received 16% of the vote in the legislative election—the second-highest of any party. In the past two years, the party has incorporated a broader base of voters as it attempts to define a platform that is at once flexible and more concrete. 
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